I recently got back from a 250 mile section hike along the Northern Virginia part of the Appalachian Trail, where I hiked the trail using La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0 trail runners instead of the La Sportiva Ultra-Raptors that I wore most of last year.
In this review, I’ll explain the pros and cons of the Wildcat 3.0’s, while providing detailed insight into how they break down with use. I’ve got about 350 miles on these shoes and they’re pretty much wasted, which is pretty average for a trail runner like this.
Switching to La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0 trail runners before my section hike was a last-minute shoe change, the result of a switching to thicker Darn Tough socks because I got sick of replacing the far less durable Smartwool sock liners that I used to wear. So I ordered a bunch of different trail runners from Zappos (including the Montrail Mountain Masochist II and the Salomon Fellraiser) in different 1/2 sizes to find a replacement shoe and the Wildcat 3.0’s were head-and-shoulders the best fitting.
The toe box on the Wildcat 3.0’s is substantially bigger than the other La Sportiva trail runners that I’ve tried, which typically run a bit small and narrow. In addition to needing more space for my thicker socks, I like having the additional toe space for longer distance hiking because my feet and toes swell over time. If you like a larger toe box or a wider shoe but have passed over La Sportiva trail runners in the past, I’d recommend you give the Wildcat 3.0’s a try. The size difference is quite noticeable.
I’m a big fan of mesh trail runners because my feet sweat when I hike and mesh trail runners help vent the moisture, keeping my socks drier and feet blister-free. Forget a Gore-Tex lining: that prevents moisture from leaving your shoe as much as it prevents moisture from entering it, and fails rapidly from wear and tear.
While the Wildcat 3.0’s have mesh outers, the inside of the shoe is lined with a felt-like fabric so you don’t experience any abrasion between your sock and the inside of the mesh fabric. This internal liner also helps keep your socks drier when splashing through mud or rock hopping over streams, stopping the moisture from soaking your socks. This was unexpected.
The La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0s use the same soft and sticky sole as La Sportiva Ultra Raptors, which is awesome for walking on wet or dry rock. The internal arch support and the impact brake system are also identical, although the factory insole in the Wildcat 3.0 is softer and has started to disintegrate.
Forefoot protection in the shank is also far softer with the Wildcat 3.0’s than the Ultra Raptors, and therefore less desirable when walking long distances on rocky terrain. This wasn’t an issue on the Virginia AT, but it’s quite noticeable when I’ve used the Wildcat 3.0’s on the rocky trails of New Hampshire’s White Mountains and not particularly desirable.
The Wildcat 3.0’s also have relatively little protection around the toe, really just a thin toe kick guard. The top of this toe kick separated from the rest of the shoe (on both the right and left shoes) about after about 150 miles, which concerned me greatly when it occurred. They haven’t fallen off yet, but it may be worth filling the gap with an adhesive like clear Shoogoo if it appears to keep it from becoming an impediment. I often modify trail runners with Shoogoo to enhance their longevity, so I can’t say I’m surprised or even that dismayed when they start to decay like this, because I’ve seen it before all to often.
I really enjoyed using La Sportiva’s Wildcat 3.0 trail runners on my AT section hike down south this year and think they’re a great hiking shoe for easier, less demanding terrain. They’re incredibly comfortable, with a large toe box, great breathability, and ample cushioning around the heel, but provide relatively little toe or forefoot protection which I prefer when hiking through rockier, mountainous terrain. Still, I’m on the fence about whether I’ll buy another pair for hiking in easier terrain or switch my socks again so I can fit back into my La Sportiva Ultra Raptors. The difference in comfort is significant enough that the Wildcat 3.0’s are hard to give up.
La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0 Specs
- UPPER AirMesh/ TrailCage 2/ Microfiber/
- TPU Transkinetic Heel Stabilizer
- LINING Mesh
- MIDSOLE MEMlex/ TPU Flex Transfer shank
- SOLE FriXion® AT/ Impact Brake System™ X-Axis ™
- DROP 12mm
- CUSHIONING Midsole: 32A LAST Tempo / Women’s Tempo
- FIT Wide
- COLOR Men’s Blue/Grey, Pineapple/Blue, or Red/Blue / Women’s Purple, Light Grey/Turquoise or Coral/Maliblu
- SIZES Men’s: 38 – 47.5 (half sizes) • Women’s: 36 – 43 (half sizes)
Disclosure: Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) purchased the La Sportiva Wildcat 3.0’s and Ultra Raptors discussed in this article with his own funds.
SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
The wildcats also come in half plus size.
European half sizes, to be more specific, providing a far better fit if you have the patience to try on a lot of different sizes. Thank god for Zappos and their free return shipping!
Like you, I also need a breathable shoe, I have wide feet, and actually my ankles swell unusually in the summer due to a condition. I have trouble fitting the Ultra Raptors, but I fit fine in the Wildcats. When hiking in trails with a little rock, the latter are fantastic.
But if I am going to have to do some serious scrambling, or if it’s mostly rock, I want approach shoes. I love my Sportiva Xplorer. The toe box is wide, they fit true to size (which I can’t say for the Ultra Raptors, as I have to go one full size up to get my feet in) and they have a protective rand around the lower half of the shoe. I only have about 60 miles on mine, but so far I like them a lot. I haven’t hiked in them wet, so I can’t speak for how fast they dry… Wondering whether you’ve tried them, and what you thought of them.
I also tried the Salewa Wildfire, and found them roomy comfortable, but I couldn’t keep my ankle in place no matter how I tied it (as I walked, it didn’t stay put). I really liked their construction, but that was a deal breaker.
The Explorers look very interesting and I think I’ll give them a try. They have a rock guard under the forefoot and burly toe protection. Thanks for the tip!
Darn Tough makes some nice thinner socks — I’ve got a number of pairs in different weights for different shoes/seasons. Their “ultralight” is, I believe, the lightest — they aren’t under the hiking section of their website, but under running, skiing, and biking. I wear ultralight Darn Toughs during hotter weather or with shoes that are little snug with regular Darn Toughs.
I should try that to.
Any of these super light shoes come in super-wide sizes?
Probably not. But you can check.
Haven’t spotted any yet :(
One of the most useful footwear reviews I’ve ever seen. And timely. Many advantages sited are exactly what got me into sandals — light, breathable, roomy, fast drying. I too hate Goretex and found the excellent smartwool socks not wear resistant. Any grit pulverizes them. Coolmax Is much tougher. Like the recco for Darn Tough ultralights and idea to use Zappo free return for exact fit. Waiting for Zappos to stock wides! Bravo!
I’ve been using Montrail’s Mountain Masochist II for several years with great success. I do all of my backpacking in the Adirondacks where there are plenty of wet rocks. The Montrail shoes fit the bill with a narrow instep and a wide toe box to avoid toe jam on downhills, sticky rubber and an excellent lug pattern. I use Coolmax socks, which seem to be tougher than wool and dry out quickly. My Montrails runners have about 350 miles on them and look like new.
Nice write up Philip. I switched to the Wildcats 2.0’s last year. I liked them a bit better than the 3.0’s (a little wider toe box and a bigger toe bumper). As the 2.0 became harder to find, I have switched to the 3.0. I do get some forefoot fatigue on really rocky trails, but for me they are perfect in almost every other way. These will be my go-to shoes for many miles to come.
Just picked up the Ultra Raptors at REI yesterday. They feel very much like my Terroc 330’s. I saw the Wildcats on display and thought wow look at all that mesh but the salesperson was wearing a well used pair of Raptors and after sharing several stories of hikes that Ive also completed said he couldnt be happier with them. Hopefully we have similar feet.
Philip, you mentioned the wider toe box, but I’m wondering if the Wildcat sizing is otherwise on the small side like the Ultra Raptors. In your Ultra Raptor review, you mentioned having to move up from your normal size 10 to a 10.5; did you need to do the same with the Wildcats?
Good point. I use a 10.5 there too.
In case this helps anyone…
I spent some time in an REI looking to replace the Brooks Cascadia 8’s that I’ve worn for a year. I used a size 9.5 and had some issues with near blistering because the toe box wasn’t quite wide enough. Nevertheless, it was comfy enough for me to use for a year.
I tried size 10 in the Cascadia 9 and the size 43 and 43.5 in the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor and Wildcat 2.0. I really wanted to convert, especially due to the firmer, beefier footbed, but ultimately I had to turn them down because the La Sportiva toe box was tight on the outside of my foot. The Cascadia 9 in size 10, a half-size up from the measurement per Brannock device, offered ample toe room and hardly any heel slippage. Very cushy and obviously lighter than the La Sportiva options. I wish they had a more rugged rock plate, but it’ll do.
Curious whether any one else has encountered the same problem with Wildcats as I did. I took a pair of the originals (not 3.0, but the gray and green ones just labeled “Wildcat”) on the Pennine Way in England and had worn large holes through the fabric in the heel after just 7 or 8 days of hiking. Ending up filling the holes with gauze pads and patching with duct tape to get me through the trail. The shoes were wet frequently so that probably didn’t help. Any similar experiences with any version of the Wildcats?
Do you find that the Raptors offer better protection for the soles of the feet when hiking on rocky trails in New Hampshire? I tried on the Wildcats and they felt great, but now I’m not sure. This will be my 1st pair of trail runners and I’m not sure what to expect. I usually hike in NH, VT & Maine. Thanks!
The Raptors feel somewhat stiffer to me with better toe cap protection. I just orered two new pairs….
I’ve used Wildcats for several years and prefer the original Wildcats Wildcat 3.0. You should try those.
I’m wearing the Wildcat 2.0 and really love it. I have wide feet and would really like to see wide sizes in this shoe. As a result of this, the uppers (mesh) wear quickly which doesn’t really affect the performance of the shoe. Haven’t tried the Raptors yet but it’s on my list. What are the biggest differences between the Raptor and Wildcat?
The raptor heel and toe stay stiffer with use.
I’ve used Wildcats and like them a lot. I also looked at ultra raptors and actually thought wildcat had a more substantial insole. Ultra raptor uses an ortholite soft foam insole.
I’m on my third pair of Wildcats and I love them. Since this review was written six years ago, the shoes have been redesigned and look a little different. My Wildcats are not GTX. They are very supportive even w/o the inserts I use. The soles are very grippy but since they are soft, they wear down fairly quickly. I wear them daily for office work, to the gym, walks and hikes.
I know there is a GTX version but I seek a mid, waterproof boot that’s similar to these I can use for hiking on rainy days and walking through water. small streams, etc. Any recommendations? How about the Ultra Raptor Mid GTX or something simialr from La Sprortiva, Scarpa, etc?
If you like the Wildcat’s sticky rubber, I’d try the Ultra Raptor Mid GTX. They’re really very similar shoes.
I’ve also been using a Scarpa Rush Mid GTX this year – which has proved quite nice, waterproof, sticky grip etc. I reviewed it this spring.